Stroke and the Caregiver's Role

Stroke, what is it and how does it affect the United States? How can the caregiver recognize the signs of stroke in the person they care for?
Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death in the US and is the reason for many disabilities in the American population. Every year, there are about 800,000 people who experience it. This enormous number tells us that for every 40 seconds, someone suffers from a stroke.

Without being fully informed, caregivers can mistake the signs of stroke as part of their patient’s current illness, or caused by aging. So it is important for them to know how to identify the real signs, and how to act accordingly.

Stroke is a kind of injury where blood does not reach an area of the brain, depriving the brain cells of much-needed oxygen and nutrients, and destroying them in the process. When brain cells die, a person can become weak or paralyzed, unable to talk or understand language, or will have impaired memory, among others.

The caregiver must determine if their patient has a risk for stroke. Older patients, the chronic smokers, those with hypertension, heart conditions, and diabetes are prone to having a stroke. Physicians would usually tell the caregiver and the rest of the healthcare team if the patient has a risk of developing a stroke. Caregivers should, therefore, be vigilant, alert and ready to help the patient when they see signs of stroke.

The need to act fast is crucial to saving a patient’s life. EVERY SECOND COUNTS. In fact, for every minute that passes that blood flow to the brain is cut-off, 1.9 million brain cells die. The earlier the patient receives medical attention, the greater the chance for their survival and the lesser the chance for them to develop disabilities.

Below are the signs of stroke that caregivers need to know: To remember them better, the caregiver may use the acronym FAST.

F- FACE: Ask the patient to smile. Check if one side of the face droops.

A- ARMS: Ask the patient to raise their arms. Check if they have difficulty or unable to raise one arm.

S- SPEECH: Ask the patient to say a phrase. Listen to the way they talk and note if their speech is slurred or difficult to understand.

T- TIME: Every second counts. If you see any of the above signs, call 911 immediately. Do not wait to observe for worsening signs or for new changes.

Other than the above signs, a patient who experiences stroke may also have some weakness on one side of the body, have trouble seeing or become confused. They may also complain of a very severe headache.

Sometimes, a patient who is having a stroke loses their balance as they walk. If this happens, the caregiver must not panic and look for the nearest place to quickly lower the patient to a seat. All efforts must be made to ensure that they do not fall. Safety is always a priority. When the caregiver observes other signs of stroke, they must quickly dial 911 and stay with their patient until help arrives. `

Stroke is a serious medical emergency. A caregiver who is adequately informed and acts promptly will have saved their patient’s life and prevented likely disabilities from developing in their patient.